S1E112: First COP28 Health Day highlights climate link to health crisis

  • 3 Dec 2023

At the COP28 climate talks in Dubai from Nov 30-Dec 12, a first-ever dedicated Health Day has been set aside today on Dec 3. 

Synopsis: Every first and third Monday of the month, The Straits Times analyses the beat of the changing environment, from biodiversity conservation to climate change.

From heatwaves and floods triggering illness and death to air pollution from burning fossil fuels killing millions of people a year, climate change really is a global health crisis and requires urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions. 

Yet for nearly 30 years, the annual UN climate conferences, or COPs, have failed to focus on the escalating human impacts from climate change. Negotiators have focused more on cutting greenhouse gas emissions than on the link to health. 

In this episode, ST's climate editor David Fogarty hosts Dr Maria Neira, the World Health Organisation's top public health and environment official, to talk more about the importance of such issues on the COP's first-ever Health Day. 

They discuss why it is so urgent that nations take action now to tackle climate change and why doing so could be the ultimate public health opportunity.

Highlights of conversation (click/tap above):

1:06 Why is the climate crisis a health crisis? Key connections

6:53 Why haven’t UN climate talks focused more strongly on the link between climate and human health? 

9:48 Dr Maria Neira: “If we reduce the bad quality of the air we breathe every year, we could save at least 5 million lives.”

11:37 Tough action against climate change could be the ultimate public health opportunity

13:34 Dr Maria Neira: “The moment people connect health and climate change, I think there will be an incredible increase in the sense of urgency.”

Produced by: David Fogarty (dfogarty@sph.com.sg), Ernest Luis, Hadyu Rahim & Amirul Karim

Edited by: Hadyu Rahim

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